I love this book. I bought it with a book voucher that I got as a school prize when I was 14, and I’ve read the print off of it. I love the concept, the ideas, the characters, the blend of realism and science fiction. I really, really love this book.
That isn’t why I wanted to blog about it though. This is the third blog I’ve done about the inspirations behind my desire to write poetry, and although this seems an odd choice in this context, it makes complete sense in my head. For three reasons.
Firstly, poets are presented throughout the book as dangerous heretics, intellectuals who cannot be trusted with their imagination and their ideas, as trouble makers who should be crushed. Poor Ampleforth is removed because he respects language and he fails to change “God” as a rhyme for “rod”. This entirely matches my view of effective poetry and is something that I aspire to, both in my writing and in my preaching too. I find comfort in being a small element of grit in the machine, throwing up difficult ideas and questions, in the belief that these will ultimately contribute, in some tiny way, to the general wellbeing. I am just about too young for punk, so poetry is the next best thing I’ve found as a vehicle for rebellion.
Secondly, because of the concept of NewSpeak. In contrast to Orwell’s vision of a constrained language used to strangle freedom of expression and freedom of thought, modern communication is thriving – the merging and diverging of different styles and regional variations, the frantic creation and obsolescence of words, the influence of technology and of new media. The English language is morphing into a hundred different forms, as new elements are drawn in from other languages. The world needs new ideas for new possibilities, from text speak, to millennial speak, to tech speak and beyond. Poets have a pallet of words and ideas that is expanding and evolving at an incredible rate – the exact opposite of the philosophy behind NewSpeak. This is plusgood, doubleplusgood, we have so much new potential to explore, and to use to fuel our creativity. We are the privileged pioneers who can write poems for the first time about Twitter and I’m a Celebrity. We can write about transgender life in a more open and honest way than many who came before us. We are become more mature in the way that we are embracing and absorbing the difficult cultures that surround us. You can still write about falling in love, and spring and unhappiness and the usual sorts of things, but we can continue to push these boundaries forward. This is an amazing time to be creative. I relish this.
Finally, the principle of Doublethink also inspires me to write. Truth and challenge seem to be things that significant elements of our society are running away from. We hold one idea in our minds, and simultaneously embrace the impossibility of the idea and any number of contrary ideas. We will have hundreds of millions of pounds more for the NHS after Brexit. Donald will build a wall along the border. There is such a thing as a humanitarian war. Consumerism is compatible with sustainability. The NHS can flourish within a free market model. We know that these are incredible statements really, illogical, impossible. We know that we are being lied to by the media, by social media, by our politicians, by our friends. Not all the time, but certainly some of the time. We often seek out the comfort of these spun truths and outright lies, and we search the internet to substantiate and support our position, sometimes deliberately, but sometimes without even realising it. In my opinion, poetry is a weapon against this. Poetry is an objective expression; sometimes it is truthful and honest, and sometimes it is misguided and false, but good poetry – as a minimum – gives the reader the opportunity to think and to form judgements of their own. It creates a space and a structure for our thought processes to move forward and develop.
I know that all of this sounds very earnest, but it is my unfiltered opinion. Poetry and language are so very, very powerful. We have to use them.